In a low oven, granulated sugar develops a toasty flavor reminiscent of light caramel or turbinado, yet it remains powdery and dry. That means you can use it to replace white sugar in any recipe, adding a subtle note of complexity to round out the simple sweetness of your favorite dessert. Because of the time involved, you’ll want to roast a whole bag of sugar to make it worth your while. Just give it a stir every thirty minutes or so to help it toast more evenly, then cool and store like plain sugar.
You can toast smaller quantities of sugar while you blind-bake a pie crust—just use sugar with a foil liner in place of pie weights—or make small quantities in just 30 minutes at 350° F. Pour the sugar into a 10- or 12-inch skillet in a layer that’s a quarter-inch thick so that it toasts evenly. The exact timing will depend on the accuracy of your oven—keep a close eye on the sugar the first time around, then adjust the temperature for future batches accordingly.
Key Point: This technique will not work with raw or semirefined cane sugar, as its natural molasses content will begin to melt at much lower temperatures, causing the sugar to clump.
Preheat the oven to 325° F. Put the sugar in a 9-by-13-inch glass or ceramic baking dish and roast, stirring well once every 30 minutes, until it darkens to a sandy tan, with a coarse texture like turbinado, about 2 hours. The color change can be strangely difficult to judge in the dim glow of an oven, so scoop out a spoonful to examine in better light.
Let the roasted sugar cool away from any sources of moisture or steam until no trace of warmth remains, about 1 hour. If you notice molten caramel around the edges, pour the hot sugar into a heat-resistant container, leaving the melty bits behind; once cool, the baking dish can be soaked clean. Despite its innocuous appearance, roasted sugar can be dangerously hot, so take care not to touch it.
Store for up to a year in an airtight container at room temperature.
- Metal baking pans conduct heat more rapidly, and their corners may harbor traces of grease or moisture, factors that make the sugar more likely to liquefy around the edges.
- Given the importance of maintaining a low temperature, use an oven thermometer to verify that yours runs true to dial. Otherwise, the sugar will caramelize too quickly and begin to liquefy.